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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki


7. Health and Well-Being

7.1 General context

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  1. Main trends in the health conditions of young people
  2. Main concepts

Main trends in the health conditions of young people

In order to evaluate the current status of public health in Latvia, studies on habits affecting health are conducted on a regular basis. One of the most comprehensive ones is the study of habits of the Latvian population affecting their health (conducted every 2 years). The results of 2014 indicate that the number of young people, who evaluate their health as good, has grown in recent years. When analysing trends, young people are paying more attention to healthy eating habits, because the number of those young people (15-24 years old) has increased compared to 2012, who eat fresh vegetables 6-7 days a week (by 10.8% more men and by 7.9% more women). Also, in 2014 the number of those young people increased, who never add salt to ready-to-eat food (by 17.7% more men and by 13% more women). Physical activities of young people have slightly decreased compared to 2012. The data of the study of 2014 indicate that the problem of overweight among young people remains the same, that is 20.1% of men and 11.7% of women aged 15 to 24 have overweight. In addition, an international study of health habits of children is conducted, where 11, 13 and 15 years old children are the target group, and it includes different matters regarding health habits, obesity, oral health, prevalence of addictive substances, injuries and mental health. Overall, it can be concluded that healthy lifestyle habits should be promoted in young people, as well as the use of highly fatty food, food with extra sugar and salt on a daily basis should be reduced.

As to the area of addiction, Latvia periodically organises a study named “Habits and trends of use of addictive substances among pupils” (ESPAD), which is happening every four years. The results of 2015 indicate that 15.7% of 15 year old young people, who smoke at least one cigarette a day, are considered smokers. When analysing trends, it can be concluded that the share of regular 15 year old smokers has reduced by 12.1% over the last four years. The results of ESPAD 2015 showed positive changes also in the analysis of the smoking age, namely, the number of those pupils has reduced, who have smoked their first cigarette at the age of 13 or earlier. Also, the share of those 15 year olds reduced, who started smoking on a regular basis at the age of 13 or earlier. Furthermore, 89.0% of pupils in this age group have tried alcohol at least once, which is by 7.0% less than in 2011. The number of those 15 year old pupils, whose last use of alcohol was just recently or during the last week preceding the survey, reduced by half compared to 2011. The study of 2015 shows a considerable reduction in several main indicators of the prevalence of drugs. The share of those 15 year old pupils reduced by 8.0% in 2011, who have tried at least once any of the drugs – 19.0% of young people of this age group currently have such an experience. At the same time, a considerably smaller number of young people used other illegal psychoactive substances.

In addition, an international youth smoking study is conducted in the field of addiction, the purpose of which is to become aware of the prevalence of smoking among pupils aged 13 to 15 and to study smoking habits of this group. The results of the survey of 2014 evidence that Latvia still has high share of 13-15 year olds, who have tried smoking a cigarette at some point – 59.7% of pupils state that they have tried smoking cigarettes, inhaling the smoke at least one or more times.

With support of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, a Study on unfavourable experiences gained by Latvian young people in childhood was implemented in 2010 and 2011, the purpose of which was to become aware of the prevalence of unfavourable experiences of Latvian young people in childhood. The target population of this study were pupils of form 12 of general education schools (secondary schools) and students of year 3 and 4 of vocational educational institutions. Overall, 16.9% of young people (participants of surveys) have not experience any of factors of unfavourable experience in their childhood, while 26.9% gained unfavourable experience.

Main concepts

The main policy planning document in the health sector are the Public Health Guidelines for 2014-2020, which are based on the WHO European Region Strategy Health 2020, and has been developed to increase the number of healthy life years of the Latvian population and to prevent premature death by maintaining, improving and restoring health. The guidelines provide for health promotion and disease prevention measures in the following directions – reduction of the risk of non-infectious diseases, improvement of health of pregnant women and children, reduction of the effects of injuries and environmental risks on public health and prevention of infectious diseases, special attention is also devoted to the persons subject to the risk of social exclusion and poverty, including young people. On the basis of main action lines, the guidelines include measures in the fields of promotion of healthy diet, physical activities, mental (psychic) health, sexual and reproductive health and substances and the reduction of the prevalence of processes causing addiction. At the same time, in order to stimulate equal health opportunities for all the Latvian population, partnership and interindustry cooperation is promoted, involving sectors also outside the health sector.

The Latvian National Development Plan for 2014-2020 is the main medium-term development planning document in Latvia and is an action plan for the Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia until 2030 (Latvia 2030), which should serve as a roadmap for the development of state in the medium term. It focuses on popularising of active lifestyle, healthy diet, physical activities (including in national sports), reproductive health and prevention of injuries and targeted implementation of measures in the society.